It was 2009. It was the year I finally flew the coop, leaving behind the provincial life in the hopes of earning my bachelor’s degree far away in the city. I was a big dreamer back then, and I still am to this day.
Who I am today is not far from who I was before 2009. That person yearned to escape, to find herself among a throng of big dreamers and believers, and to chase the fantasies her young mind envisioned in her then-quiet hometown of Tuburan, Cebu.
The city, for me, was always the dream.
Since becoming a city girl, all the actions I had once imagined came true. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city life and I thrived in a fast-paced environment where breaks meant guzzling liters of coffee to stay alert and drawing smoke into my lungs to ease the stress. The latter is something I no longer do.
I used to glorify being stressed. It meant I was productive. It meant I was earning my stripes. It became an addiction that was hard to quit.
The city, for me, was always the dream.
Fast forward to ten years, and the accumulated stress became random panic attacks in crowded places and breathing difficulties even on normal non-stressful days. Indeed, your anxiety is the product of your environment.
And so, there are times when I yearn for the slower pace of the province life. It’s the only place where my brain wasn’t overstimulated and I particularly enjoyed the idyllic view in between sips of coffee.
Here are some of the things I miss living in the province:
1. Taking Bike Rides on Quieter Roads and Lush Greenery
Oh, how I miss rising up early before the sun does and taking a bike ride as my morning exercise. My father and I used to do that on weekends a long time ago. We’d pedal our way around town, into the edge of the decrepit wharf, and as far as the roadside green fields past the Langoyon bridge. And when it’s time for us to go home, we’d stop by the local bakeshop to buy the hottest pandesal (the quintessential bread roll of the Philippines) to pair with a cup of hot sikwate (a beverage made from roasted cacao beans) waiting for us at home.
Nowadays, I only jog in and out of our subdivision, which I don’t particularly enjoy given most of our neighbors have dogs and cars I have to avoid.
2. Bigger Spaces and Fresh Air
The Tuburan I remembered had bigger spaces and cooler air. There was a mix of peace and chaos the last time I visited there. The commercial strip of Tabotabo Street is now teeming with small businesses and vehicles ferrying customers in and out of the vicinity. It’s actually a good thing economy-wise.
But that’s not really a big deal as you can still see rolling hills, endless sky views, and inhale lungfuls of fresh air there.
On some days that I crave space and a little more green than the weeds growing outside our subdivision gates, I reminisce and imagine myself lying in a hammock in the province, surrounded by tropical trees and being rocked by the gentle, cool air.
Houses in the province are usually bigger than in the city. Space is at a premium in urban areas, which is not the case in the province. It would have been nice if I could do some gardening or watch my child running around in a bigger yard. But that’s for the Richie Rich of the city and it’s only possible for those in the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder like me if I’m in the province.
3. It Feels Safer
There was a time in our early teenage years that my friends and I stayed out late at night to chit-chat or play bingo at a local funfair and only returned home a quarter before midnight. That actually happened a lot of times. And none of us or a parent freaked out because it was safer back then.
This is not to say that it’s okay for teenagers to stay out late! I’m just making a point of how living in the province feels safer than living in the city where there are a lot of bad types lurking around. Perhaps, it’s because people know everyone and they try to look out for each other in the province.
Of course, I don’t know the current statistics of crime in our hometown. I only visit the place now once a year.
4. Getting Together Meant Frolicking in the Springs or Catching Up in the Old Wharf
Our hometown is known for its natural springs and a trip to the town isn’t complete without jumping into the cool waters of the Molobolo Spring. For the locales, it’s our go-to get-together place for friends and families no matter what the occasion.
You could also find us catching up with friends on the old wharf. It was abandoned back then, but people found it a great place to hang out. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the cool sea breeze while sharing about your life’s latest saga?
In the city, it’s expensive to hang out with friends. It normally requires an expensive cup of coffee at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. Or a ₱4,000 meal in a swanky resto-bar.
5. Sense of Community/Family
There is something much more human in the province than in the city. Maybe because people know each other more in the province? Where I live now, I only know a handful of my neighbors and they don’t even know about me. I will always feel like a stranger here, especially since I don’t go out that much to socialize. Everyone keeps to themselves.
When I last visited my hometown early this year, most of the faces I saw were unfamiliar to me. Despite that fact, there is a sense of family there that I don’t find in the community where I live. I felt my family was delighted to see me and I sensed the warmth in my neighbors’ eyes when they called out my name. I’m sure it brought back all the memories they had of me, and I of them.
Will my family move and start a life in the province? It’s too early to tell. I hear there are frequent brownouts and water shortages there, so it might be something we have to find a workaround yet.
But you know typical human nature – we often desire to want what we don’t have. Once we settle in the province, we may long again for the convenience, recreation, and abundance of choices in the city.
As I said earlier, who I am today is not far from who I was in 2009. I still thrive in a fast-paced environment. I still get a unique high from always having something to work on or stress about. Weird, but that is me.
The only thing I know for sure is that I miss my hometown… or at least aspects of it. And I take comfort in knowing I can always leave the urban life behind, drive back to my hometown, and start anew anytime.